Scientists have found out what the Vikings wove their baubles

(ORDO NEWS) — The warriors of Northern Europe adorned themselves with beads, the glass for which was mined in ancient temples. However, their masters creatively approached the remelting of the ancient heritage.

Researchers from the University of Aarhus (Denmark) studied samples of beads, as well as utensils from the workshop for its manufacture. Both were taken from the collection of the Museum of Southwest Jutland.

The authors of the article, using electron microprobe and laser ablation, analyzed the composition of medieval beads of different colors and trace deposits left on the crucibles for their production.

All these finds were made during the excavations of two workshops in the city of Ribe, one of the largest trading centers of the Viking Age. Such trading coastal cities are called emporia.

Scientists have found out what the Vikings wove their baubles 2
Even a small admixture of gold changed the color of Roman glass

The first archaeological data on Riba date back to the beginning of the 8th century. It is the earliest of the major trading cities of the Vikings.

It began to be excavated in the 1970s and initially only a very densely built-up area was found (later, the site of an agricultural community was discovered).

A huge number of artifacts indicated that archaeologists had found a center of trade, as well as some specialized craft workshops, including the production of beads.

It may seem that beads are a real trifle. People at different times strung everything that was at hand on threads, from mollusk shells to bones of their own kind.

The quantity and quality of such decorations was a means of social positioning. But, it would seem, why do harsh northern warriors need all these beads?

However, the finds of the Viking Age indicate that beads, beads of different colors and sizes, were an extremely sought-after commodity.

And if women’s jewelry, as a rule, was made from beads of different colors, then for men’s products they chose mainly blue and white.

We talked about how things were with the production of glass and products from it in the Roman Empire. But Rome fell, and the barbarians who came to Europe in the VIII century were not yet able to establish their production.

And then the glass left over from Antiquity was used. Tesserae (mosaic cubes) were torn from mosaics in abandoned Roman and Byzantine temples, palaces and baths, transported north and sold in emporial cities such as Ribe. There, bead makers melted them in large vessels and shaped them into beads.

Scientists have found out what the Vikings wove their baubles 3
Not knowing how to make glass on their own, the barbarians of the early Middle Ages mined it in ancient temples and palaces

Until now, archaeologists have assumed that the matter was limited to a change in shape, but not color. And it seemed logical: why experiment and change the color when you can just find the right mosaic cube?

But the authors of the new work found that it was not so simple. The white beads were made by melting gold leaf tesserae at a low temperature, resulting in bubbles and hence an opaque white color.

Scientists noted that the Viking masters cleaned off the bulk of the gold leaf before melting it down. But even a minimal amount of it was enough to get opaque white beads.

According to the researchers, even if the first result was accidental, then glassmakers noted this technology and began to widely use “gold” tesserae to change color.

So traces of gold leaf were found not only in white, but also in blue beads from the same workshops. The chemical composition shows that they are made from a mixture of blue and gold mosaic cubes. And the result here is different from the previous one.

If during the low-temperature remelting of “gold” cubes the craftsmen obtained opaque, milky-white beads, then with blue beads the addition of gold leaf did the opposite: they became transparent.

The fact is that the Roman blue mosaic elements contained a high concentration of chemicals that made them opaque.

It was suitable for mosaics, but the Vikings, judging by the archaeological finds, preferred transparent blue beads.

The paper says that in a later period, bead makers mastered other options for changing the color of products.

They did not just mix one Roman mosaic cube with another, but added individual dyes to the molten glass and obtained red, black, green and yellow colors. In theory, this required a sufficiently high temperature.

The remains of the substance on the crucibles of the workshops prove that such a complex staining was done on the spot.

This means that the craftsmanship of the Viking Age was much more developed and had more complex forms than previously thought.


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